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How to Keep Your Antiques In Top Condition

maintaining antiques
Written by Jennifer Cooperson

These tips and tricks for keeping your antiques and aged furniture pieces in top condition will simplify your life, making them heirlooms worthy of Instagram fame.

Antique and vintage furniture items continue to appeal, with research undertaken by academics at The Asheford Institute (AIA) showing that customers are getting younger and opting to purchase everything from vintage jewelry to fashion, textiles, and furniture. If you have made your first investment or you have a small collection of ‘new’ antique items you’d like to cherish as merited, then take note of the following tips. Keeping treasured items in tip-top condition is as much a matter of placement as it is of cleanliness.

how to maintain antiques
Julien-Pier Belanger

How to Clean Antique Décor Pieces

The ideal method for cleaning antiques depends on the material your item is made in. In general, you should always opt for the gentlest methods possible so as to avoid damaging surfaces. It is vital to research into particular materials such as wood, metal, and fabric, since some substances can change the color or texture of materials.

maintaining and cleaning antiques
Photo by Kelly Miller on Unsplash

For instance, you should avoid using oil to clean stained wood, since this substance can sink into open grain and darken its color. Dust antique items once a week with a soft (and lint-free) cloth, wax wooden antiques that are not stained around once at the start of every season, polish brass antiques around four times a year, and deep clean rugs and floor coverings around twice a year.

Cleaning Upholstered Furniture and Rugs

Because antique upholstery can already have faded prints, you should ideally clean these items by hand, with a gentle solution made of white vinegar and warm water. Use a very soft brush to address any stains, always brushing in the same direction as the pile.

maintaining antiques and cleaning antique persian rugs
Photo by Mehrshad Rajabi on Unsplash

You can do the same with carpets, using a larger brush. If your carpet is stained (e.g. by wine or another beverage), act quickly, using water and a paper towel and gently rubbing the fabric until the stain disappears. Avoid steam or dry cleaning an antique rug, since doing so will break down wool owing to high temperatures and the chemical composition of most cleaners.

Finding the Ideal Place for Antiques

Large pieces of furniture will find their logical place in your home but smaller items should ideally be elevated to avoid breakage. If necessary, put up shelves or find support furniture that allows you to place your prized items more or less at eye level. This will make it easier to clean the items but also ensure they are seen by visitors to your home.

Items such as large vases and leather magazine holders can be placed in strategic corners (e.g. next to a fireplace or television table), so they cannot be bumped into or knocked over. Keep items away from direct sunlight or humidity and ensure the air quality in your home is optimal. Indoor air pollution can affect organic materials like leather, fabric, and wood. Avoid smoking in your home, rely on HEPA filters for good air quality, and avoid the use of harsh cleaning products on other pieces of furniture, floors, and curtains — as these all affect air quality. 

maintaining antiques and how to care for antique wood furniture
Photo by arpa sarian on Unsplash

If you are proud of your new collection, make sure it lasts by putting items in a safe place and by cleaning them gently. In general, a soft cloth will remove dust from materials such as wood and metal. You can also use wax to keep wood in top condition, though you should avoid any oily cleansers if the item is made in stained wood. Finally, ensure your indoor air quality is good by investing in quality furniture and opting for natural yet effective cleansing methods.

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About the author

Jennifer Cooperson

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